The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) hosted a rally on Thursday, Nov. 26 advocating for University of New Hampshire (UNH) lecturers who have yet to receive updated contracts from the university. Students and faculty filled the Murkland Courtyard urging the university to find a solution between the two parties.
Approximately 50 supporters attended the rally, with several more continuously stopping through the courtyard to and from class. “I Support UNH Lecturers” shirts were worn by many and dozens held posters in support. Encouraging chants continuously broke out across the courtyard as the speaker was delivering their message.
The rally began with speakers from the organization taking turns informing the attendees of basic facts and understanding of the lecturer position. The names of past and present lecturers who were affected by the contract dilemma were read, as well as the colleges they were in. The Japanese department was particularly emphasized, as it will be lost if a resolution for the contracts are not made. Later on, speakers read out quotes from UNH professors and lecturers expressing their thoughts. The professors emphasized the importance of the issue and that a solution needs to be addressed immediately.
“We want to send a message to UNH administration that students support their lecturers and believe they deserve a fair and secure contract befitting their centrality to the function of this university,” Will Hardesty-Dyck, UNH student and co-chair of the UNH YDSA, said. “We hope that administration comes to the bargaining table in good faith and respects lecturer demands.”
UNH lecturers teach about 50 percent of classes, according to an article published by NHPR. Lecturers are “teaching intensive positions” that focus on teaching information to a large group of undergraduate students. This position differs from other professors on campus, and are offered different, shorter contracts. The NHPR article mentions that lecturers have not received updated contracts since their last ones expired in June of 2017. A Nov. 21 Union Leader article states that the lecturers must live off the old contract until a new agreement is reached.
About 195 lecturers have been working without a contract for nearly two years, also according to the Union Leader. Hardesty-Dyck believes action is required immediately.
“The UNH student body needs to continue to pressure the administration to show all of its employees the respect that they deserve. We should not be cutting programs or letting talented teachers go,” he said.
UNH Sociology Professor Cliff Brown attended Thursday’s rally in support of his colleagues and students. He believes lecturers play a vital role in student success at UNH.
“Over time, they have become increasingly important to the institution’s ability to deliver a high quality student experience both in and out of the classroom,” Brown said. “Lecturer faculty not only teach courses. They also supervise independent studies, nominate students for awards, coordinate internships, lead study abroad programs and attend Commencement and Honors Convocation. They also direct and participate on critical committees, represent their departments on Faculty Senate, write letters of recommendation, and participate in key hiring decisions.”
According to Professor Brown, the uncertainty in job security can affect both lecturers and students.
“When the administration decides not to renew a faculty member or eliminate a program, or when a lecturer takes a more secure job elsewhere, there are ripple effects that cannot be quantified,” said Brown. “Students who might come to UNH may choose other schools. Some may transfer. The absence of students, faculty, and learning opportunities that might otherwise be part of our community diminishes the UNH experience for those of us who remain.”
The YDSA will continue to fight for an agreement for UNH lecturers.
“UNH should be known as a university that values its faculty and staff, and we will continue to fight until administration does just that,” Hardesty-Dyck said. “Lecturers have direct, deep lasting impacts on UNH students and we heard just a fraction of those stories at Thursdays rally.”
His hope is that UNH will negotiate with the lecturers as soon as possible, resulting in a fair contract negotiation.